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      Cabinetmakers and draftsmen consider: is it worth the time and effort to make careful, detailed shop drawings? January 3, 2014

I would really like to hear an opinion on this. I am the only draftsman at our company and we produce high end custom woodwork. I produce, in CAD, detailed drawings including every single end and plan section with full scale details where required. Everything, right down to the hinges is included in its correct place. Essentially, the client knows exactly what they are buying before it is produced. It is common for some of our projects to have 20 plus sheets of 24 x 36 prints. Then after all is agreed I go back and draw the components in Microvellum and send it to the CNC. What would the expectation be of time versus per $1000 of project be for that? I also do all of the site measurement and buying of materials, etc. Some informed opinions would really be appreciated.

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From Contributor Y

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Doing what you are doing there is no fast way to do it. I would expect the time to be very high, but a lot depends on what methods you use to speed things along and the drafting system you have. It also depends greatly on the style of construction. Stile and Rail vs. flush overlay, pilasters and panels vs. flush finished ends, etc. Too many job to job variables to give you a fixed percentage.

Do beware of over documenting things. Being that you do high end work I would presume your shop folks know how to build things and shouldn't need every screw location detailed and really I'm willing to bet the client doesn't care to know the size of the hinge screws, but I have seen people put that in drawings. That is fabricator information, not submittal information.

If your drawings are balanced as far as information presented being enough to produce the job, without over detailing the things that don't matter, then the engineering time is the engineering time and I wouldn't worry about it. All this hinges of course on if you’re using smart methods to create the drawings. If you’re just sticking together lines and arcs and hatch I would spend some time learning faster methods, but I don't know your skill level that way so I cannot judge that.

From the original questioner:
By faster methods do you mean use of Dynamic Blocks, Sheet Set manager, etc.? If so then I use all those sort of things and if that is not what you meant I would be curious to know what you had in mind.

From Contributor Y

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Sounds like you’re using smart methods to create your drawings then actually. I have done a lot of high end type work myself and it can be amazing how long it takes to create a set of drawings sometimes. I feel the pain though as I have had jobs where we had to label which drawer the potatoes went in, sometimes there can be rather unrealistic demands from a set of shops.

From contributor O:
I'm not completely sure I understand what you are saying. Are you taking advantage of the automation regarding sections, details, etc. from Microvellum? When you say you are re-drawing the components in Microvellum to send to the CNC, I'm kind of confused. There might be some things you aren't taking advantage of.

From the original questioner:
The only time I gave our shop guys the Microvellum generated sections there were howls of complaint about the quality and not having enough detail. To a man they wanted my normal Cad drawings and that's how it's been ever since.

From contributor O:
You are able to customize what Microvellum auto-generates when doing the sections as well as the elevations. They are pretty standard, out of the box. If doing some customizing can eliminate some of the redundant drawing tasks that you're doing, it could make a significant impact.

From Contributor J:
I think a lot of it depends on which version of Microvellum you are using and how you use it. If all you draw is in 2D, I find that it doesn't show enough detail. If you draw in 3D it shows all the detail of how it is going to be built. But in order to get the details dimensioned automatically you need to use MV sectioning which I have found sometimes misses parts for some unknown reason. Setting up sections for automation is time consuming though.

From contributor G:
Somebody the other day told me that the standard used to be 4-6 hours for a D size sheet and this was hand drawn. I think this is probably more in line with what Harry is talking about, but I don't know what MV can do to help with this.

From the original questioner:
Not sure what you mean about hand drawn? I would try that if I was fast enough to catch my pet goose to get a feather quill from its backside. When I was still working as a cabinetmaker our draftsmen used to tell me that two 24" x 36" per day was the norm. I don't know what difference dynamic blocks, SSM has made because that's all I have known, but I can draw considerably faster than that.

From the original questioner:
OK it seems that no-one has an answer for my original question so here is another. What is the expected ratio of Project Manager/Draftsman to cabinet maker? In other words, I do all the CAD drawing, hardware research, CNC programing, site measuring, material buying, etc. How many cabinet makers on the shop floor should I be able to stay ahead of? Bear in mind that I work in a truly high end company where every job is custom and unique. Our projects can be anywhere in the $50,000 to the $300,000 range.

From contributor G:
Maybe the question should be what is the correct metric for a draftsman? Thinking out loud, perhaps it should reflect how smoothly the job goes. On second thought that is a bad idea as there are too many variables. But the project manager is judged by this metric. I guess the only gauge on you should be how long previous/similar jobs have taken and how long they take now. It seems to me that two hours per 1000 in gross would be about right. As to your last question I have worked at shops that had 1 detailer per 30 guys and shops that had 1 detailer per 6 guys. Not sure that metric flies?

From contributor G:
Just out of curiosity, it seems like either the boss thinks that you could do more or you are thinking you are underpaid or both? My advice would be to be careful that the two of your thinking is not being influenced by a third party who makes comments to the both of you to his benefit.

From the original questioner:
Not really. I actually have a good relationship with him and I was trying to form opinions/facts before I tell him we need a second draftsman.

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